For a while now, Sulforaphane has been a hot topic within the scientific community. Its received particular attention from Dr Rhonda Patrick and Tim Ferriss. Whilst it can consumed via broccoli sprouts, these aren’t always easy or convenient to consume. The below post discusses the best supplement options. Jed Fahey, one of the leading researchers in the field, warns us to be careful of which supplement we use. Saying their lab, which has analyzed dozens of supplements over the years, has found that many are terrible, and don’t contain what they say they do. To complicate matters, there are 3 main ways to consume sulforaphane:
- Pure Sulforaphane – Average bioavailability of 70%*
- Glucoraphanin + Myrosinase – Average bioavailability of 35%*
- Glucoraphanin – Average bioavailability of 10%*
* Bioavailability numbers come from Jed Fahey’s research at John Hopkins. See source #3 below for more info. Below are a list of the best sulforaphane supplements. All are currently used by Jed Fahey’s team at John Hopkins University in their clinical studies:
Consuming active sulforaphane itself has the greatest potential affect (measured using a term called bioavailability). Currently, there is only one free-form stabilized sulphoraphane product on the market. Its name is Prostaphane, and is manufactured in France by a company called Nutrinov. You may see products advertising that they contain Sulforaphane (specifically Sulforaphane Glucosinolate), however, it should be noted that this is misleading. Whilst it is technically accurate to say that they contain the glucosinolate form of sulforaphane, actually they contain glucoraphanin. It then needs to be converted into sulforaphane via myrosinase.
The next best alternative to active sulforaphane is consuming the precursor glucoraphanin alongside the activation enzyme myrosinase. Avmacol is a high end supplement made by Nutramax Laboratories. It is glucoraphanin extracted from Broccoli seeds, plus the active myrosinase enzyme. Each Avmacol pack contains 60 tablets, which at 2 tablets per day, is a 1 months supply.
Crucera-SGS is a supplement from Thorne Research containing concentrated glucoraphanin. Thorne Crucera-SGS comes in 60 tablet packs, doses at 1 tablet per day, so 2 months supply. As briefly mentioned above, although the supplement ingredients read “Sulforaphane Glucosinolate” (aka SGS), this isn’t to be confused with active sulforaphane (found in prostaphane). Sulforaphane Glucosinolate is the sulforaphane pre-cursor; glucoraphanin, which needs to be combined with myrocinase to turn it into sulforaphane. To recap:
- All 3 supplements mentioned above are currently used in clinical trials by John Hopkins University. This means that they’ve been tested and confirmed to contain what they say.
- The most bioavailable sulforaphane supplement you can buy is called prostaphane, but so far, is only distributed in France.
- Next most bioavailable (and accessible in the USA) is Avmacol, because it bundles the enzyme myrosinase alongside its glucoraphanin.
Potential Lower Cost Option
Whilst the ultimate low cost alternative to high end sulforaphane supplements is sprouting your own (see below), for many, this is inconvenient. It takes preparation and time, and isn’t always possible when travelling or busy with work. Whilst the above supplements are the only ones thus far to have been actively used in research by Jed Fahey and his team at John Hopkins, there are some new entries to the market that may have promise. However, the only way we’ll know for certain is if they get clinically tested. Jarrow BroccoMax is one such supplement, which uses a patented formula to extract both glucoraphanin and myrocinase from broccoli sprouts, then combines them in capsules. The reason this strategy is interesting (adding myrocinase to a glucoraphanin supplement), is that myrocinase does exist in the gut, however the levels fluctuate from person to person. Thus, by supplementing it in addition, it increases the potential sulforaphane uptake. See their patent for details on the process they use, which they quote yields 8mg of sulforaphane per 30mg capsule. With Jarrow BroccoMax you’re looking at about $0.30 per capsule, compared to around $0.80 per capsule of either Thorne Crucera-SGS or Avmacol.
Growing & Consuming Fresh Broccoli Sprouts
If you’ve read through the above, you’ll realize there doesn’t exist an optimal supplement. Even if prostaphane were available in the USA, its cost would likely be high. Whilst supplements are great for busy lifestyles, whilst you’re on the go. If you’ll be staying in one place for a while, a good alternative is to grow broccoli sprouts yourself. It’s really simple to grow broccoli sprouts, you just need a seed sprouter (Rhonda uses Ball jars + sprouter lids, but any jar + mesh will do), and some organic broccoli sprout seeds. This video gives a good overview on how to produce your own. The dosage used in clinical trials often ranges from 30-60mg of sulforaphane. Estimates land fresh broccoli sprouts at a concentration of about 1 gram fresh weight to around 0.45mg of sulforaphane. So to achieve 30-60mg, you’d need to consume between 67-134g of sprouts. Rhonda says (on her latest Tim Ferriss podcast) she consumes up to 4 ounces (113g) of broccoli sprouts a few times per week. Broccoli seeds yield approximately 5:1. So this means if you start off with 1 ounce of broccoli seeds, you’d end up with approximately 5 ounces of sprouts. To achieve Rhonda’s 8 ounces consumption per week, you need to grow approximately 1 and a 1/2 ounces (43g) of seeds each week. To put a price to that, Todd’s seeds (for example) are $24 per pound (1lb = 16 ounces). So you’re looking at a cost of $2.25 of seeds per week. That’s not very expensive, given the potential long term health benefits. Granted, if you’re consuming 4 ounces of broccoli sprouts in one sitting, its a lot. You’ll probably want to emulate Rhonda, and blend them in with a smoothie. Her blender of choice (like Joe Rogan) is the Blendtec Classic. But any decent blender will do. Its worth also taking a look at Rhonda’s video on tripling the bioavailability of sulforaphane your sprouts. Essentially you heat your broccoli sprouts to 70C, hot enough that it disables the epithiospecifier protein, but not too hot that it disables the myrocinase enzyme (responsible for converting the glucoraphanin into sulforaphane). We do this because glucoraphanin can be converted into two forms of sulforaphane (regular sulforaphane, the stuff we want, and sulforaphane nitrile, which does not contain the anti-carcinogenic properties we want). By knocking out the epithiospecifier protein, which is needed for converting glucoraphanin to sulforaphane nitrile, we increase potential conversion to regular sulforaphane (yay!). She uses a Famili temperature monitor to ensure she gets the water at 70C.
This article was contributed by John King
- Chemoprotection Center At John Hopkins University FAQ
- Jed Fahey Interview on Rhonda Patrick’s Podcast
- Further publications from John Hopkins University research